smithreynolds's picture
smithreynolds from Spokane, WA USA is reading The writing on the wall. August 23, 2016 - 12:26pm

Hi. Gail here. I just asked helpfulsnowman, our Community Director,  if LitReactor can accommodate critique groups/special interest groups, that want to bond around a particular aspect of the craft and more aggressively support @ other's posting in the Writer's Workshop, and thereby form some attachments and avenues of discourse that might enliven the existing format and soup up speed in the already existing Writer's Workshop. 

Example:  I am forming a group called Writers who like Campbells Tomatoe Soup with Cream. We bond over our common love for canned soup and support @ other rigorously when one of us makes a post to the workshop.

Question, for all ye old time Lits. Does this site have a way to accommodate bonding other than trying to follow a particular thread that attracts like minded scribers who want to eat soup together and talk about writing? ...Get it? If not, then articulate it again for the benefit of others, and tell me if we can do it in the existing tech reality. okay thanks. gsr

bethwenn's picture
bethwenn from Milwaukee is reading The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann August 23, 2016 - 5:51pm

I don't know of anything like that, but it would be really cool if there were such a thing. If we could make little groups and such. I feel like even just being able to use more than one genre category/tag (and having a wider selection of those to choose from) to describe your work on the workshop would help.

Maybe one option could be starting one thread where people post/discuss around that particular common interest, post when they have something new in the workshop pertaining to it, and that could sort of be the group?

smithreynolds's picture
smithreynolds from Spokane, WA USA is reading The writing on the wall. August 23, 2016 - 6:18pm

@bethwenn. Maybe a thread would work fairly well since there is no need to post work there when it is already posted and accessible in the workshop. Can you think of any things about the nature of the conversation in thread that would discourage free interplay and might be right. You'd just have to name it according to the nature of the intended conversation, just like any other discussion, and it would either come alive or die according to participation. I have not participated in a thread over a period of time to know if there are problems for an ongoing discussion...So let's start one and see if it works. What do you think?

bethwenn's picture
bethwenn from Milwaukee is reading The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann August 23, 2016 - 7:15pm

You should do it! :)

Daltonwriting's picture
Daltonwriting from Charlotte, NC is reading As many short story collections as I can get my hands on August 24, 2016 - 5:01am

I definitely like the idea of groups.  Small groups could help us set realistic goals and push each other to be better writers.  It would also allow us to bounce ideas off of each other while we are in the middle of the writing process.

helpfulsnowman's picture
Community Manager
helpfulsnowman from Colorado is reading But What If We're Wrong? by Chuck Klosterman August 24, 2016 - 11:36am

I agree, good idea.

I'm not actually sure if this is possible or not. But I'll find out. 

Just to make sure I've got the right thing in mind, what we're talking about is a group page of sorts, under which multiple threads could exist, and that group page is dedicated to and run by a specific subset of forum users?

smithreynolds's picture
smithreynolds from Spokane, WA USA is reading The writing on the wall. August 24, 2016 - 12:35pm

@helpfulsnowman. I'd say you got the gist. People could generate a group that has some common ground, like knitting sculpture or mind travel or whatever, and they gel together into a little community inside LR that personalizes their experience and allows some bonding and mutual support, most particularly in the Writer's Workshop, hopefully to amp up response time and number of critiques, and supporting one's fellow, leads to a higher wattage workshop ...that would be the hope anyway. People get discouraged right now, waiting for reviews, and one review is not enough feedback to be really supportive of someone's work. Plus reviews from people you've gotten to know a little render balance and trust and higher reciprocity in the workshop. You don't want to let your fellows down, so you make a bigger effort to reciprocate.

helpfulsnowman's picture
Community Manager
helpfulsnowman from Colorado is reading But What If We're Wrong? by Chuck Klosterman August 31, 2016 - 6:09pm

Okay, here's what I learned:

This was discussed at some point, but the idea never made it through. The reason being, there was concern that it would cause the formation of highly clique-ish groups run by evil overlords ("evil overlords" weren't the exact words used, but you get the gist), and regulating these types of groups would be really difficult if and when things went south.

That said, the higher-ups aren't totally against the idea either. 

So, if you all had some suggestions that address those issues, I'm happy to bring it back to the folks in charge. I'd say the main issues at play are:

1. Exclusivity/cliqueishness. I think the root problem to be addressed with this is that it's hard to grow the community if the work and crituques of members are appearing in small groups as opposed to larger groups. Nobody new who joins gets to see the thoughtful critiques and work of other members.

2. How are the groups structured so no one gets a big head or rules with an iron fist?

3. How do we create something that fulfills your goals but also works for the larger, broader internet? I know none of you would take over a group and be a jerk bully, for example, but how do we create a group structure that works for everyone?

I do think there are solutions, however. For example, if it were me, I might suggest that groups can be created, but they only last for a limited time. So if I make, I don't know, the Battered Bastards of Bukowski Group, we go for a few weeks, and then we're disbanded. Sort of like the way the classes work. Maybe in that framework, we limit the group creator's powers and they are not allowed to post their stuff during the period in which they lead a group. That way, the group head can't bully people into anything, and there's good incentive to pass leadership around a little bit. 

But I'm really interested in hearing solutions you all have. If this is something you want, then let's come up with some ideas and see if we can't make it happen!

smithreynolds's picture
smithreynolds from Spokane, WA USA is reading The writing on the wall. August 31, 2016 - 8:55pm

Wow! Who am I? Certainly not a responsible adult who can choose what kind of group I want to participate in. I hate to say it but this response is a little condescending.  The result is stifling. And, furthermore the insinuations are just a titch paranoid....don't you think.  I'm smiling as I say this, because I am really quite surprised at the fear of peaceful assembly....This is astonishing.  Probably because it is superimposed over the audio of Donald Trump's speech on immigration and his promise of "extreme vetting." playing on my tv in the living room. Time to turn it off. In what manner would we need to be regulated?  Maybe a great wall along the southern border. Come on you guys. For the love of macaroni, wil you lighten up? I hear OZ talking behind the curtain.

I do appreciate the attention to the kind of community I want to write in. At least you answered me. So with that I bid you a good evening.  I've got me some thinkin' to do. Are you sure this is a Writier's site? With regard gsr.

And as AnnaRosannaDanna would say, "Never Mind." 

Thuggish's picture
Thuggish from Vegas is reading Day of the Jackal August 31, 2016 - 8:21pm

How, if at all, would this differ from writing groups that spring up all the time?

smithreynolds's picture
smithreynolds from Spokane, WA USA is reading The writing on the wall. August 31, 2016 - 8:56pm

Oh, I forgot, to the folks in the "high castle". You never answered whether it was possible, only why you don't want to do it.  Who are the bullies? I think you are just afraid you'll break what you've got going. That's fair. A little chicken shit but fair. You guys really do piss me off.

smithreynolds's picture
smithreynolds from Spokane, WA USA is reading The writing on the wall. August 31, 2016 - 8:26pm

@Thuggish. There are no writing groups on this site. That's the difference.

Thuggish's picture
Thuggish from Vegas is reading Day of the Jackal August 31, 2016 - 8:28pm

I bet there are members of this site that formed their own writing groups outside the forum though.

smithreynolds's picture
smithreynolds from Spokane, WA USA is reading The writing on the wall. August 31, 2016 - 8:53pm

Well Thuggish I just bet you are right. The search goes on.

bethwenn's picture
bethwenn from Milwaukee is reading The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann August 31, 2016 - 9:49pm

I don't think the group element would turn into a negative or hostile thing, just based on what I've seen on other forums. On less sophisticated sites, the groups exist on a particular thread and have regulars that post there. On more sophisticated sites, they have guild/group pages where they can make a group description, have some members in charge of updating information and whatnot, and they have their own mini-message board/forum type place. (The clique-ishness and exclusivity are problems more for places that have a lot of younger users, I think.)

1. If I'm understanding the idea correctly, I don't think we'd want mini-workshops at all. We'd still all be posting to the regular workshop. I think the idea is just a congregation place where we can also mention there to that group, hey, I've got a thing in the workshop. And you would have regular people there who would be responsive and interested in keeping the mutual exchange of feedback going, so they'd pop over to the workshop (the same one we all use).

2. I'm not sure why this would be a problem. Again, just based on what I've seen on other forums. Usually, the people who make groups are doing it for sociable reasons, for the group of people they want to virtually congregate with. If they rule with an iron fist and are unlikable, people don't want to participate in the group, and it dies. If you are very concerned about it, you could make co-ownership mandatory I suppose? But that does seem a bit over-cautious. I would just say, this is a website full of writers. It is chock full of ego. We're going to get people with big egos clashing with other egos, whether there are groups or not. Period. That's just a fact. Look at me! Or any of us really. Tempers flare in the moment and disagreements are heated, but we seem to get over them well enough.

3. I'm not sure that I understand what you're envisioning for the groups, so I'm not sure how to answer this question. The idea would be that users could create groups, so there would be multiple groups, rather than just an exclusive few. There could even conceivably be a group for newbies.

You could certainly always just try it out and then delete the feature if it somehow became a dystopian disaster of nightmarish, egomaniacal virtual dictatorship.

bethwenn's picture
bethwenn from Milwaukee is reading The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann August 31, 2016 - 9:53pm

@smithreynolds, I'd certainly be in a writing group with you! My friend Morgan (she doesn't use this site) and I sort of have a 2 person group but the only thing is we both sometimes tend to work at a turtle's pace.

smithreynolds's picture
smithreynolds from Spokane, WA USA is reading The writing on the wall. September 1, 2016 - 2:44pm

@thanks bethwenn. I appreciate that. Here's the thing. I looked for a long time to find LitReactor, through a lot of little rabbit holes in the search of something akin to Tom Spanbauer's group in Portland, Oregon. I realized late in my writing life that I was missing out on half the fun. Not to mention, actually having a forum in which to talk about the craft of the work, is powerful and humbling. It's hard to hear that your enchilada has no cheese. You taste  it through someone elses' tastebuds and sure enough, "My enchilada has no cheese." So, I want LR to do the job for me. I don't want to start a group outside of it, because it is too much work.  I have faith in organic happenstance, and I am impatient as well. IT's all good. Essentially, I think what I need is here. I am just learning how to access it.

So. I am hot to make up time, recently free of the workaday world, and can for the first time be a full time writer. Most of my peers do not have this luxury. I am just looking to make the most of it.

I don't want to start a writing group. I hate starting stuff. I just want to walk in the door and see if I like the vibe and listen to other people read their stuff, and maybe read mine. I haven't found that writing group. That's fine. I do think, it might be a thread turning into a hot spot that people congregate in, and stand in front of the fire and shoot the shit, as my brothers used to say.

I stay here in LitReactor because it is the best thing going that I could find. It moves too slowly for me because I am  freer than most to engage. I think people need four or five reviews to really get a take on what people are saying to them. In here it takes a week to get one. And, that might be the only one.

Secondly, it was healthy for me, closeted, touchy, egotistical, pompous scribe that I am, to run into a bunch of people who have no regard for my sensitivities. It has taken me four months to get a little backbone and thicken my skin. It's a tough room. That's the best to play for if you want to learn fast.

What I'm saying is, I'm just fine with the way things are, and I'll land on my wedge of the pie.

Group dynamics alwasy did make me nauseous. 

@helpfulsnowman. Thanks for following up and responding. Sorry if I lit into you. The shadowy figures at the top annoy me, and pique my paranoia, when the god shadow passes over.

helpfulsnowman's picture
Community Manager
helpfulsnowman from Colorado is reading But What If We're Wrong? by Chuck Klosterman September 1, 2016 - 1:24pm

No, no. It's okay. Nobody likes feeling like they're being treated like a kid. I get that.

For the sake of brevity, I may have misrepresented the answer. Kirk let me know they never managed to figure it out, but no one's opposed to the idea, in general. His take was that they talked about it, didn't come up with a workable way to go about it, and it was tabled. But, he's interested in hearing ideas about how it might look. It's a good thing to talk about things after time has gone by, and if something comes up multiple times, that's always a positive sign that it warrants further looking into.

To answer the question, whether it's technologically possible: the answer is probably(?) Question mark included. It's probably possible, but it's definitely more involved than a button-click or two. It's not something that's available now and just being kept in the shadows. 

I really meant what I said, I don't think the problem is anyone talking on this thread right now. There's no part of me that thinks any of you are incapable of handling what goes on in a group.

I can't completely speak to the issues, but I can speak to the issue I see as community manager. The problem I see is that of silo-ing a chunk of the best stuff in the community. If the heated discussions, great feedback, and good relationships between members are behind closed doors, how will new people discover whether the site is right for them and see that there's so much good going on? That's not to say these are insurmountable by any means, but that would be the primary issue I see. 

But maybe that's not what you were looking for in the first place(?) Maybe that's me interpreting incorrectly, and if so, I apologize.

So, I think that what I'm getting at is, maybe it would be helpful to hear what a pie-in-the-sky version of this looks like to each of you. Take me through it as process, you log in, then what happens?


@smithreynolds Did you ever get to attend Tom's workshop? I was able to attend a 3-day workshop and then met with him over Skype for some time. The workshop there really is incredible. He's such a welcoming, kind person, and if I'm reading you right, maybe what you're looking for is some of the mutual intimacy that happens in a situation like that? People seem free to share very personal stuff there, and there's a mutuality to the sharing. Also, I know that there tends to be somewhat of an unspoken, stylistic commonality among the members, and they develop their own shorthand for things. I feel very, very lucky to have experienced this first hand, and there is definitely a magic there that's worth trying to replicate. I think it's an extremely noble and good goal, and I'd love to help you make that a reality.

smithreynolds's picture
smithreynolds from Spokane, WA USA is reading The writing on the wall. September 1, 2016 - 2:37pm

@snowman. Your last paragraph summarizes exactly what I am looking for, so I need not rewrite what you have already said. I have never had the good fortune to do a three day workshop. I suspect, that opportunity will come. Portland is  a seven hour drive or a one hour plane trip. Thank you for understanding what I am talking about. I get exhausted talking ABOUT it instead of doing it. I just received D. Foy's book in the mail. I am considering taking his class in November, just because ot the way he talks about wrting. I have to choose my classes wisely at $150.00 to $325.00 bucks a pop,  even though I consider that to be a bargain. I am looking for the immersion of a class, the jolt of joy at being involved up to my eyelashes. The hard part of it, is when it's done, there is the same need to immerse, and at this point LR is a wading pool with no deep end and no diving board, if that makes sense. It doesn't yet have a mature community that has a place for everyone. Quieter folk end up giving up and walking away because no one invited them to sit down and have a beer....see what I'm saying.

I fully understant the fear you mentioned of "silo-ing" the best energy and squirreling it away in some "group". When I did the MOOC at the U of I in November 2015, the idea of joining a group seemed absurd. Why would I do that and closet myself away from the vibrancy of the total experience. What I found out was I needed to duck out of the larger community and into a little room that was warm, and welcoming and supportive, because the big group was too big to even bother to say hello. No one much bothers to say hello in LR. That's fine. different culture. I don't like to be coddled.

The whole concept of a writer needing a community is new for me. It was a revelation. So now, I am trying to actualize it, given that doing an MFA or even a writers conference is not something I will likely get to do often, if ever. So, how can LR which says  CONNECT  LEARN  IMPROVE and PUBLISH ignore the first word in your logo/mission statement. CONNECT.....How to connect in this site is daunting. You lose a lot of people who cannot do it under the given circumstances.  Connecting in here means getting into a hash tag switchblade fight with a total stranger, AND one, that might or might not be who they say they are, given the multiplicity of some of the contributors.

And, finally, silence is golden, but the dramatic pauses in this website are big enough to drive a flying saucer through. Podcast? Community Spotlight? This eight cylinder engine is firing on three. I have been here for 4 months and have yet to see a new podcast, a Community Spotlight or any kind of
Special Event. Having said that, it is the BEST thing going that I have been able to find, that offers classes and craft centered articles etc... and I looked a lot. So I am on board. There is the eerie feeling that there are three actors backstage, playing all twenty seven characters. So, I know resources are stretched thin... or  it is a bit of a masqerade party. With regard, gsr

bethwenn's picture
bethwenn from Milwaukee is reading The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann September 1, 2016 - 4:15pm

What I imagined when the topic was brought up is more or less what other forums call "guilds". I've not been on the site in years, but the one popular example I can think of would probably be the way Gaia does it:

They get a main "about" page and their own mini forum. I found a couple while browsing just now: Some of them have restricted membership and others are public. Here's another one: (I'm not sure if these links work if you aren't signed in with an account? I can take screenshots if they don't.)

I imagine this could mesh well with the workshop idea if there were a tab on the guild page that had a listing of the guild members' most recent workshop submissions. The same principle as how when you go to LitReactor's front page, there's a list of the most recent workshop submissions that have no reviews yet, except this would be filtered just to show submissions by the guild members rather than submissions with few/no reviews. I can't imagine this would stop people from looking at submissions from everyone. If you only stuck to reviewing submissions by people in your guild, the number of works to choose from would be too few, the list would update much slower, and it would take forever waiting on the people in your guild to make new posts for you to get enough workshop points to post your own work. You'd probably just prioritize the ones from the guild you're in, and then when you have none left to review but still need more points to post, you'd go over to the regular listings in the workshop. The main thing is, you'd get to know a group of people and become familiar with their work, which would hopefully increase the feedback you received, it would make the feedback more specific and tailored to you and to the common interest between you and the guild members, and it'd make you more eager to return the favor of giving feedback to your fellow guild members. You'd also have that forum to discuss particular things of interest to your guild.

The concern for the main forums dying and the groups thriving is an understandable one, but I've just not seen that happen on other sites that have this feature.

bethwenn's picture
bethwenn from Milwaukee is reading The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann September 1, 2016 - 4:21pm

I don't think the pages load without being logged in so here's a screencap. Although it will probably be easier to see what I'm talking about if you make an account quick and log in to browse their guild section.

Daltonwriting's picture
Daltonwriting from Charlotte, NC is reading As many short story collections as I can get my hands on September 1, 2016 - 4:21pm

I personally would love to see some sort of writing group develop.  I am not super tech-savy so I won't be much help on that front.  Basically I am even looking for a way to set something up where a group meets once a week to discuss what they are currently working on at a specific designated time.  As far as deciding how to set up the group, I think it is a numbers thing.  Each group should be capped at like 8ish people or so.  Too large of a group and I think you would lose intimacy.  Having the small group would allow you to receive immediate feedback.  Then when you have a piece ready, you can post it to the writers workshop.  Most of us are terribly impatient and get frustrated when we post pieces of work to receive feedback and then see nothing.  This would almost guarantee feedback.  I have personally been looking for writing groups but it is difficult to find groups that are willing to push boundaries.  I have found groups in my area but I feel like I would need to edit my writing before I would ever show up with something in that setting.  And ofcourse editing/sensoring writing is just taking a step in the wrong direction.


Maybe just set up designated times throughout the week for people to join in.  2 hours of "work shopping".  Then just make it a cap so that you sign in or log in to the group and when there are a certain number you say it is full but list another time.  Leave it open to everyone.  I think a good mix of experienced and nonexperienced writers is great.  This would also allow us to ask questions about publishing that maybe were already discussed and we missed it.  It would also encourage people to keep writing.  Help set up deadlines.  Each person gets a chance to share a piece and everyone provides feedback.  You could even set something up ahead of time that allows each writer to post what they want to discuss at that "work shop" and that way each person has time to read it ahead of time (this allows the 2 designated hours to be the most productive).  Or you can leave it as an open discussion.  Some ideas to consider.

helpfulsnowman's picture
Community Manager
helpfulsnowman from Colorado is reading But What If We're Wrong? by Chuck Klosterman September 1, 2016 - 6:01pm

Ah, I see. That visualization of the guilds thing helps quite a bit. 

I'll make another run at it, see what the response is like. I'll just throw in a reality check, there are good ideas that don't make it through for one reason or another. If this doesn't work out, it doesn't mean it's a bad idea or that anyone at LitReactor hates it.

I've found, in my day job, that sometimes the path to getting what you want is about planting the idea, demonstrating its value through making it work within the existing system, and then bringing it up again once the idea is undeniably successful. If the answer is a hard No, then let's work together to find a solution that works within the existing framework for the time being. I'm confident we can.


I have good news for you, a new Community Spotlight is slated for this month. As the new community manager, it's one of my duties to get that re-ignited. It's my hope to make it a more regular feature once more, but it's somewhat dependant on people clicking that little orange button. Please, when you see someone mention a success, encourage them to click that button. 

smithreynolds's picture
smithreynolds from Spokane, WA USA is reading The writing on the wall. September 1, 2016 - 7:11pm

Thanks helpfulsnowman. The open conversation is the important thing. No reason to harden into puddles of opionion, we just stasrt working what wwe got and see what it will do.  Appreciate you snowman.

V.R.Stone's picture
V.R.Stone from London is reading Savages by Don Winslow September 2, 2016 - 6:33am

I think there are a few issues.

In the old days, there were lots of people who arrived at this site from The Cult. They were Palahniuk fans, or at least that had similar tastes. There was a big group of writers trying to get short stories published in the same publications. Check out the whoring thread from the beginning, or look at the interrogation threads from a couple of years ago
We didn't need sub-groups, because the whole site was a sub-group. And there were so many people active in the workshop and telling everyone about publications, that people interested in each other's work would naturally find each other.

Now LR is a rag tag bunch of individuals, writing in all kinds of genres and there seem to be far fewer active members. I actually think the genre thing is ok - literary writers can learn from genre writers and vice versa. But I don't think, right now, that the site has the critical mass of members to support sub-groups. A few weeks ago it seemed like only Jose and Thuggish existed on here... Of course it's a chicken and egg situation: do we wait for the members to come, or do we go ahead and build something that might attract them?

smithreynolds's picture
smithreynolds from Spokane, WA USA is reading The writing on the wall. September 2, 2016 - 7:20am

@V.R.  You nailed it. I have lived long enough to know you can never duplicate the exhilaration of an organic spontaneous experience. They happen when they happen and then it's over, and if you are lucky, another one happens.

There is something that keeps me here. I just love writers..





Nathan Scalia's picture
Nathan Scalia from Kansas is reading so many things September 2, 2016 - 7:22am

Just for what it's worth...

Have you ever met those people who, upon hearing you're a writer, ask you to write their great idea up? It's a bit of a cliche, but we've all been there. And the reason we find it hilarious is that we know how much more work creating a story is than simply having a great idea. It's not always intuitive to those who don't have experience writing, because a great idea seems like a short skip to a great story. But with experience, you realize that simply isn't true. I've never been able to blame those without experience for underestimating that gap, because they simply didn't know.

One of the things that I learned as the predecessor to our current Community Director is that great ideas are bountiful, especially from a community as inherently creative as ours. But implementing those ideas tends to be a huge amount more work than I realized when I signed on.

For instance, one of the things I really wish I could have gotten off the ground was the Featured Workshop Story. It's a great, great idea, and one that I literally worked on during my entire tenure as community manager. I was never able to get it off the ground. It wasn't due to a lack of support or technical capabilities; it was the little things. For instance, LitReactor has some serious pull with some serious people, but goodwill isn't unlimited, and burning too much credit on one project can leave us lacking in others, so while having celebrity guest judges would have been cool, it may have left us without as much support for our LitReactor classes or any future contests we might want to run. This wasn't the only reason I floundered on this project, but it's a good example of what I'm talking about.

It was the little, unappreciated facts that can make great ideas really tough to launch. Understandably, with a small base staff and a limited pool of resources, the higher-ups are going to approach any new project with caution to avoid spending too much in a project that hasn't been fully fleshed out, justified, and with a proven degree of enthusiasm backing it.

That's my two cents. Having worked closely enough with the upper staff for a few years, I can tell you definitely that they are fully invested in the community and will generally go to crazy lengths to accomodate anything they can to make the community better. Caution isn't resistance, and sometimes things need to marinate a little, either to show that it's truly an idea that could work, or to show the places where it's a bit too weak to stand on its own.

And, as I've always said, the more work YOU do on your great idea, the more easily LitReactor can typically facilitate said idea (see the Thunderdome). These forums are a great place to flesh things like that out, so if you want this idea to work, this thread would be the best place to make it happen.

smithreynolds's picture
smithreynolds from Spokane, WA USA is reading The writing on the wall. September 2, 2016 - 7:43am

Thanks Nathan. Me did suspect the thread is the source. Thanks for the straight opinion. Everything you said makes total sense.

I've looked at writer sites that have the mechanics of groups and etc...but they got no balls, no heart and no marrow. Just big empty spaces with no one in them. What fun is that? I'll stay here. It's messier and a lot more annoying.

Thuggish's picture
Thuggish from Vegas is reading Day of the Jackal September 2, 2016 - 9:11am

To piggyback on @Nathan...

Jim Butcher, before he published, was arguing with someone that ideas were overrated and not as important as the actual skill of writing. Eventually he was challenged with two very bad ideas (Jim said gimme two and I'll combine them into something great, essentially), and they were: pokemon and the lost roman legion. (This was before pokemon go, by the way).

Jim Butcher then wrote Codex Alera, a New York Times best selling series.